Spotlight: Girls, Empowering Girls Through Performing Arts

Lynn Johnson and her wife Allison Keny truly believe in the power of art to change paradigms by giving a voice to those who want to make a difference, that’s why they founded Spotlight: Girls, a social enterprise and multi-media platform that educates, inspires and empowers girls and women through art to turn them into the leaders that the world needs.

By using the “spotlight” metaphor, this movement encourages girls and women to take center stage and make their voices listened. For “Spotlight: Girls” it’s crucial to let girls know that they have the right to take the lead role of their own lives and to claim their place in the social scene.

In an interview for Conscious Company Media Lynn Johnson says that a lot of injustices in therms of gender equality are based on the existing lack of balance between the power associated to the masculinity and femininity:

As a black girl, I learned early that I would have to be okay with taking supporting roles — both literally in theater and also figuratively in life (…)  I realized that so many of us learn that it’s only how you look as a girl that matters. Appearance sets up the biggest measure of our success, rather than what we can invent or create. We rarely take up that space in history as creators.”

In 2018, United States was the stage where the TimesUp and MeToo movements gave a stronger voice to those who were already under the spotlight, and allowed women to denounce the aggression and sexual harassment happening in the TV and Film industry. Johnson assures that these movements started a common conversation in her country:

“There are a lot of spaces that aren’t safe for women and girls. How can we change that?” We should embrace those conversations and think about how to help young women stand up for themselves and help young men understand their privilege. Similar conversations are happening around race and spaces that may not be safe for people of color, and we need to keep those going, too.”

The beginning of the movement

Spotlight: Girls was born from the idea of teaching girls to find and to strengthen their voices to be active members in a society where the masculinity is privileged and the women have a supporting role in conflicts against their own rights.

Everything began in 2008 when Lynn and Allison created a summer camp called “Go Girls” where they were educating girls through emotional skills. Back when it all started they only had 17 excited girls registered to a program that was held in a church basement in Oakland, California.

At the beginning Lynn and Allison were the primary teachers of the program, but with its exponential growth they realized that they needed to re-articulate their mission and to think about what it meant to teach social and emotional skills through the arts, so they started a scientific research and artistic inquiry to create the “Go Girls Culture Code” a 5 point methodology that set the foundations of the values under which their company was ruled.  

This code outlines the hope to accomplish their mission and the culture that surrounds it. Lynn Johnson truly believes that every social entrepreneur should have in mind a way to create a value based code to lead their companies:

“As a social entrepreneur, if you can create your own version of a Culture Code that’s integrated into all your operations, it will set you apart from everyone else. I’m most proud when our customers say, “Wow, you all really walk your talk,” and that’s important for any social entrepreneur. When you’re clear on authenticity and transparency, you can articulate that to your customers and everyone who works for you”

Their growth.

Nowadays Spotlight: Girls its not just camp but an awarded social enterprise and multi media platform that quickly became a powerful movement. Their programs attract more than 500 people per year in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the summer camp program “Go Girls!” offers two different options for girls between 1st and 6th grade:

Go Girls! Camp: Over two weeks, rising first graders – fourth graders learn social and emotional skills through the arts. Girls practice theater, expressive arts, music and perform their very own play that promotes pro-social values.

Go Girls! Productions: Older girls (rising fifth and sixth graders) produce, edit, direct, and star in their own short films. Girls learn to think critically of the media they consume while creating original girl-powered media.

Spotlight: Girls is an initiative that is setting the foundations to build a society where gender equality is not the exception but the rule, and where the girls grow with values that allow them to recognize the power of their voices in a new social paradigm. 


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